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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 12:00 AM

THE NBA FINALS - WARRIORS ARE MONSTROUS FAVORITES TO REPEAT BUT HERE WE TRY TO MAKE A CASE FOR THE CAVS ...

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: TRIBE'S ON THE RISE (FINALLY!)

You heard right: The Golden State Warriors - the NBA's defending champion and winners of two of the last three crowns - are a - 1200 favorite to cop this here-and-now NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers (+ 750) and the fact of the matter is the price tag's been going up, up, up and away since the matchup was established this past Monday night (we reported the Warriors as -1000 betting favorites late Monday night).

It's a "cigar smoker's" play, of course - wager $1200 to win $100 if you want the Warriors who will be favored big in every game this best-of-seven series and might feel unsatisfied should this "showdown" go beyond a Game 5. Know what we mean?

At this point, there's no arguing the fact that Cleveland megastar LeBron James is the greatest player on this planet - this marks his eighth consecutive trip to an NBA Finals (you might have heard!) but his woefully undermanned team might need every break in the book to extend this series into the middle of June. P.S., Cleveland F Kevin Love is "questionable" here for Game 1 after concussion issues against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tonight, it's ...CLEVELAND at GOLDEN STATE - Game 1, 9 p.m. ET, ABC

Right now, the Las Vegas number-crunchers have the G-State Warriors favored by 13 points here in Game 1 and that's with the knowledge the "Dubs" won't have glue-guy Andre Iguodala in their lineup (see leg contusion/bone bruise) but consider that Steve Kerr's club easily overcame double-digit second-half deficits to bury the next-best-team-in-the-league Houston Rockets in Game 6 and Game 7 of that Western Conference Finals and - just in the nick of time - Golden State guard Stephen Curry (averaging 24.8 points per game in his 11 playoff games this spring) is just now rounding into prime-time form after missing a batch of games with knee woes. Throw in the fact sidekicks Kevin Durant (team-best 29 ppg scoring average in the post-season) and Klay Thompson (20.5 ppg) seemingly score whenever called upon and F Draymond Green - when focused - does all the little things like set tough screens, play great paint defense, etc. and you could say that even 40-to-50-point games every night by King James ain't gonna be enough.

Still, let's make a case for the Cavs both here in Game 1 and throughout the series ... some quick-hitter strategies by coach Tyronn Lue's guys:

First off, James (34 ppg / 54.2 FG percentage / 9.2 rebounds per game / 8.8 assists per outing these playoffs) is not afraid to dig in and play a "full 48" each night but there must be ways where Lue can allow his franchise player moments to rest:

May we suggest some zone defenses by the Cavaliers here with James allowed to stay pretty stationery on one side of the floor. Cleveland needs its guards George Hill, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver to stay active defensively right around the three-point arc and try to force Golden State to attempt more mid-range jumpers where James could dart in and be a defensive factor.

Secondly, we heard ESPN's Stephen A. Smith claim the Cavaliers "don't have a chance" if they can't hit a batch of "threes" but - sorry - we don't believe that's the best strategy especially when you consider the Cavs have shot triples at a lowly 33.9 percent accuracy rate these playoffs (even James is shooting 'em at just over 34 percent) and so a go-to-the-rim approach figures to work better for the underdogs who need to get the likes of Curry and Thompson in early foul trouble here -- remember Thompson had three fouls on 'em less than four minutes into Game 7 versus the Rockets. Get to the hoop, pile up the Golden State fouls and make all your "and one's" here;

Finally, let's try something novel here and that's take some air out of the ball in the third quarter of these games. The Warriors have been an absolute buzz saw in playoff third quarters this year and so Cleveland must drain the shot clock out of the halftime break and try to make this a slower-paced game with fewer possessions. Surely, the Rockets didn't "get the memo" in Games 6 and 7 when, admittedly, they ran out of gas but if Cleveland's gonna have any shot late in these games then keeping the Warriors close to even in the third-quarter scorebook is key.

Pointspread Notes - Cleveland is 40-59-1 ATS (against the spread) overall this year combining the regular season and the post-season and that's a lowly .404 winning rate; on the flip side, Golden State is 43-55-1 versus the vig overall (a .439 winning rate).

Here's the 2017-18 regular-season head-to-head matchups between the Cavaliers and the Warriors (all home teams in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
12-25GOLDEN ST- 4Cleveland99-92
1-15Golden St- 5.5CLEVELAND118-108


NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD CHART
(entering the NBA Finals)
Here's the pointspread breakdown this post-season for the Cavaliers and the Warriors:

TEAMW L PCT
Golden St.97.563
Cleveland810.444


Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are revved up and ready to go in this year's NBA Finals - we'll keep on smashin' the books with NBA Sides & Totals winners beginning with tonight's Game 1 and also we're banging out a bunch of daily MLB winners too, so make sure you cash in big every day right here online or at 1-800-323-4453.

 

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES
Go ahead and check out the Cleveland Indians' upcoming schedule ... hey, the Tribe's gonna win a whole lot of games between now and June 25th because Terry Francona's club plays 20 of its next 22 games against fellow members of the American League Central - unquestionably the single-worst division in all of baseball.

Cleveland - now 29-25 and winners of five in a row following Wednesday's matinee 9-1 win against the pitiful Chicago White Sox (so much for that "over" totals for wins this year!) - are just now hitting their proverbial stride and everyone's gonna point to last Sunday's epic 10-9, 14-inning win against Houston as the "turning point" but maybe the Tribe didn't need a turning point when you consider there's a bunch of games coming up against Detroit, Minnesota and those above-mentioned White Sox and note Cleveland's already won 13-of-18 intra-divisional games this season.

Righthander Corey Kluber became the American League's first eight-game winner with the walk-in-the-park win yesterday as he fanned 10 batters and didn't walk a soul. Cleveland's bullpen woes have been well-documented this year - overall the Indians rank 9th in the AL in team ERA - but when the baseball sked gets to June 25th do not at all be surprised if Cleveland's winnin' the AL Central by a dozen-or-more games ... you have been warned!

NOTE: Catch our NBA Finals Game 1 re-cap in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

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